By Shawn Wood
For The Daily Item
MECHANICSBURG -- Six races into the 2013 Central Pennsylvania 410 sprint car season, Fred Rahmer and car owner Rob Sell were in victory lane.
Finding victory lane is nothing new for Rahmer, the 2009 National Sprint Car Hall of Fame inductee, who has more than 500 career wins in a sprint car. It was the first win for Sell as a car owner.
Rahmer enters the 23rd annual Pennsylvania Sprint Car Speed Week as the 13-time and defending champion of the series which begins its nine-race, 10-day odessy tonight.
Rahmer, who started racing in 1978, also owns 99 small-block modified features wins.
The second-generation driver and his new team have been on fire ever since the drop of the green flag for the Icebreaker 30 at Lincoln Speedway.
The team has amassed an incredible 31 consecutive top-10 finishes.
Rahmer leads the points at both Lincoln and Williams Grove Speedways and has four wins on the season.
This coming after a two win campaign last year in 79 starts.
"We're just lucky so far," Rahmer said following a second-place run at Selinsgrove Speedway 410 race on March 10 of the teams early-season success. "I've raced long enough to know not to get too excited, but I am happy with the way things are going."
Rahmer, 54, did not score a win in last year's Speed Week. He owns 30 Speed Week victories. The next closest is Greg Hodnett with 22.
Last year, Brian Montieth was the only driver to win two Speed Week races (Lincoln, Big Diamond). Other winners were Hodnett (Grandview), Keith Kauffman (Hagerstown), Logan Schuchart and Stevie Smith (Williams Grove), Tyler Walker (Port Royal) and Lance Dewease (Selinsgrove).
The first-ever Speed Week race was held July 3, 1991 at Williams Grove where Steve Smith was the winner.
That year, Smith won three of the five races to secure the his one and only Speed Week title.
Since then, only six drivers (Smith, Rahmer, Hodnett, Dewease, Lucas Wolfe and Kauffman) have won Speed Week titles. Hodnett and Dewease are tied with three titles each.
Williams Grove has two Speed Week dates this year. Following tonight's opener, the series heads to Lincoln on Saturday for the 14th Annual Kevin Gobrecht Memorial. The weekend wraps up on Sunday at Big Diamond Speedway.
Following a day off on Monday, the series goes for six straight nights beginning Tuesday at Grandview Speedway. On Wednesday, the series heads to Hagerstown Speedway (Md.) before returning to Pennsylvania and Lincoln on July 4. The $10,000 to win Mitch Smith Memorial is Friday, July 5 at Williams Grove. The series makes its lone stop at Port Royal on July 6 and concludes on Sunday, July 7, with the Jan Opperman Memorial at Selinsgrove.
Last year's fifth-place points finisher Daryn Pittman is racing with the World of Outlaws this year and is the points leader.
Here's a look at what has been taking place at the 410 sprint car tracks:
n Williams Grove
Myerstown's Brett Marks, who finished 10th in the final Speed Week points last year, has five wins this season including last week's last-lap pass of Stevie Smith. He also won the Ray Tilley Classic in May at Selinsgrove.
The track has had seven different winners this year with Danny Dietrich being the only driver to win twice. Five drivers in the top-10 in points; Dewease (2nd), Hodnett (5th), Montieth (8th), Ryan Smith (9th) and Gerard McIntyre Jr. (10th), have not won a race at the track this season.
"Stevie was one of my heroes and I grew up watching him and I always looked up to him," Marks said. "To be able to race with him like that was spectacular. Whenever you can win at Williams Grove it's a great experience. We have a lot of confidence going into Speed Weeks."
Hodnett won last week's 410 feature, his first at the track since 2011. He is one of nine drivers to have scored a win at the oval this year. Rahmer, who leads the points by 155 over Montieth, has 17 top 10s, 14 top-fives and two wins to bring his all-time win mark to 168.
Montieth leads all drivers with four wins.
"We're not real confident heading into Speed Week, we've been struggling," Hodnett said. "We have to pick up our speed and get our car better. I just can't find the balance as to how the car wants to be driven compared to what the track is dictating and what the car is allowing me to do."
n Port Royal
Selinsgrove's Blane Heimbach and Harrisbug's Chad Layton have been trading the points lead over the past few weeks with Heimbach scoring the win last week, his second of the year, to retake the points by 75 points. Eight different drivers have won at Port this season with Doug Esh the only other driver than Layton and Heimbach to have won twice.
n Big Diamond
Hodnett is the driver to beat when it comes to 410s roll into Coal Country. Kauffman and Tyler Walker are among some of the other drivers who have won a Speed Week show at the 3/8th-mile oval over the years.
Hodnett opened the Speedway's 2013 season with a win on March 10, his 14th career win at the track. It was the first of four 410 shows on the schedule this year. Marks won the Tilley Classic on May 26. Last year, Lance Dewease won the finale.